Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours is an arcade side-scrolling shoot ‘em up game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4, PS Vita and PlayStation TV with a retail release for PS Vita in Japan. The Darius series does not just transcend arcade games but also retro games too as there have been dozens of Darius releases with the Darius series making its debut in the arcades in 1986 before coming to home consoles such as the Amiga and Atari ST in 1989 and ZX Spectrum in 1990 with a port titled Darius+, while the series did not make its PlayStation debut until Darius Gaiden in 1996 followed by G-Darius in 1998, while a port of Darius Gaiden was included on the Taito Legends 2 compilation on PS2 in 2005 and Dariusburst releasing for the PSP in 2009, but can Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours improve upon the vast number of entries in the series?
Another Chronicle Mode (AC Mode) is a direct port of an arcade game called Dariusburst: Another Chronicle EX in which players from around the world are randomly assigned to one of 64 cabinets with the cabinets acting as an arcade cabinet in an attempt to emulate the original arcade experience which contained a premise that players from throughout Japan would collectively work together to unlock new stages. There are an astounding total of over 3,000 stages to unlock when playing the Chronicle Mode within AC Mode as the premise sees players liberating planets which are presented as individual missions comprising of re-arranged zones and enemy bosses that must be completed successfully in order to unlock new areas, while there are parameters on certain stages which set rules such as fixed equipment, 1 credit, the number of players and more besides. Players can change their cabinet but an online connection is required for that purpose as well as for enabling the gameplay mechanic of being able to share your progression through your chosen cabinet.
Original Mode and Original EX Mode allows players to choose their branching path through 3 zones with a choice of 3 zones to start out on, followed by a choice of 2 zones to select from after successfully completing the first zone and a choice of 3 zones to select as the final zone, although the Original Mode is the easier of the two as Original EX Mode delivers the closest to a bullet hell experience in comparison to the rest of the game modes.
Event Mode allowed players in arcades to download seasonal maps and battle in special encounters, although despite the option being displayed within the AC Mode menu; it is unclear if it will be made available to play this specific mode on any platform outside of the arcades.
Chronicle Saviours Mode (CS Mode) implements a story arc covering important events from the series spread across 200 stages which span a variety of mission objectives including attack, defence, time attack and more besides.
The ship design is pretty good as it consists of 9 ships including Silver Hawk variants, a new ship from Chronicle Saviours and more besides with their own unique sets of attributes, while ship customisation is possible by accumulating enough points to purchase a ship setting which improves an element of the ship’s attack or defence. The enemy design comprises of hordes of sea monster battleships that all have their own unique look to them such as mechanical dragons, crabs, jellyfish and much more besides which are appropriately complimented by some of the largest and most vicious looking enemy bosses that also include all new Chronicle Saviours enemy bosses as well as obstacles such as asteroids and metallic cubes.
The environment design is rather varied as one zone can see players battling just above the sea with structures exploding upon the distant backdrops to provide awareness of a larger scale to the battle, while there are also zones situated in outer space with stunning views of asteroids, planets and stars in the distance.
Weaponry functions work hand-in-hand with collecting specifically coloured items that represent a range of power-ups that provides diversity of how the weapons perform such as the shot level being levelled up via red items as shot level 1 fires missiles that dissipates certain enemy weaponry, while level 2 provides lasers that cut through enemies and dissipates their firing towards your ship and level 3 fires out waves that cut through enemies and land as well as collecting gold items which destroys every enemy on screen at that moment and silver items providing a bonus to your score. Much in the same way as shot levels; bomb levels can be levelled up by collecting green items which produces a single bomb, a twin bomb and a multi bomb which can be fired downwards from the front of the ship for level 1 followed by upwards and downwards for levels 2 and 3, while the arm level can be levelled up by collecting blue items with arm levels 1 and 2 (normal arm and super arm) increasing the durability of the ship by 3 followed by 1 after collecting further blue items and the hyper arm of level 3 increasing the durability of the ship by 3 but also protecting it from collisions with the ground. Each ship is equipped with further major battle changing weaponry including the Silverhawk’s Burst beam which can obliterate most enemies almost immediately and can certainly help clearing any incoming enemy fire and when going up against enemy bosses, although the Burst beam is limited by the Burst Gauge which can be charged by defeating enemies, while Gaiden can utilise a Black Hole Bomb which is extremely powerful as it sucks up enemies and bullets, alongside a variety of other special attacks using the Burst Gauge such as Fixed Burst, Burst Link, Burst Counter, Spark Burst, Burst Finish and much more besides dependant upon the ship you have chosen.
Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours supports cross-save between the PS4 and Vita. The cross-save functionality allows you to sync the progression of your save file from your Vita to your PS4 and vice versa, so you can start playing the game on your Vita on the way to and from work, sync your save game when you return home and then resume were you left off by loading the save game and continuing via the PS4 version. The cross-save feature is made possible by uploading your save file to the cloud on one console and downloading it from the other console. There is unfortunately no cross-buy between PS4 and Vita, although PlayStation TV is supported with the Vita version, therefore providing a home console solution to not having cross-buy between PS4 and Vita, but as the PlayStation TV version is the same as the content of the Vita release it also results in there being no multiplayer unlike the PS4 release.
There are multiple downloadable content packs available that upon being purchased can be accessed from the extensive DLC Mode comprising of themed ships and stages from three Taito games including Night Striker, Metal Black and Ray Force available individually $4.99 or as a cheaper bundle for $11.99 which is even better value taking into consideration that all downloadable content is available for cross-buy purchase allowing players to play additional content for a single purchase on Vita and PS4.
The control schemes are well mapped to the Vita with the default control scheme for each ship mostly consisting of pressing square to shoot; pressing R to turn the ship to face the opposite direction; pressing X to perform a burst; pressing L to perform a fixed burst; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer the ship or alternatively pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad; and pressing start to display the pause menu. The control scheme is almost is almost fully customisable as for instance shooting can be mapped to R instead of square, although what lets down the customisable controls is the lack of any potential utilisation of the Vita’s right analogue stick, touch screen and rear touch pad. The PS4 control scheme is pretty much the same with turning the ship being mapped to R1 and performing a fixed burst with L1, while the light bar radiates with the colour of your chosen ship, although there is no touch pad implementation and no vibration on DualShock 4 which is surprising as the touch pad could have provided an alternative to shooting by tapping and moving by swiping with vibration for destroying enemies, especially enemy bosses and when your ship has been destroyed.
Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours possesses amazing visual effects such as a variety of enemies, bullets flying all over the place, explosions from enemies or even your own ship, incredible art not only in the foreground but also the background environments and an excellent array of colours with a consistently exceptional level of performance as the gameplay is chaotic yet always maintains a smooth frame-rate.
The only criticism which could be levelled at the graphics is due to the display of the AC Mode as it is presented in super wide screen which is better suited to the PS4 on a much larger screen as it does not translate well to a 5 inch screen as it vastly reduces the available gameplay area of the screen and also reduces text size which should have therefore been optimised to overcome that problem within a portable environment, although the CS Mode covers a much larger portion of the screen on both PS4 and most importantly the Vita as it provides a better compliment to the smaller screen within the portable environment.
The presentation of the game is mostly solid with the only problem being that some of the text in the English localisation actually remains in Japanese, although there is an otherwise great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, game mode menus, multiplayer menus, ranking menus, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick as well as the Vita’s touch screen and rear touch pad or the DualShock 4’s touch pad. The background of the menu screens consists of a galaxy of stars lighting up the night sky as they gradually spin around, while the logo is colourfully presented at the top of the main menu screen.
Excellent sound effects including items being collected, weapons being fired at enemies, weapons being fired at you by enemies, special attacks fired in your ship’s direction by enemy bosses, explosions when you have destroyed an enemy or a component of an enemy boss, a loud roar to announce that an enemy boss is incoming and a scream of agony when they have been defeated, although there are no voice-overs which could have perhaps introduced the start of a stage and congratulated the player upon completing each stage. Thought provoking and melodic soundtrack from Taito’s house band Zuntata who has previously composed music for such iconic series as Bubble Bobble, Ray, Space Invaders and more besides. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising as it could have produced a variety of sound effects or the soundtrack.
The trophy list includes 32 trophies with 18 bronze trophies, 8 silver trophies, 5 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. There are technically no easy trophies, although if you are able to complete the game then you will naturally earn over half of the trophies from defeating bosses on the way to completing game modes. The hardest trophies have to be the All Nothing silver trophy for defeating all bosses and their variants and the Tiat gold trophy for scoring over 350,000,000 points in any game mode. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are two sets of difficulty levels including easy, normal and hard in Original Mode and expert, extreme and exceed in Original EX Mode for a total of six difficulty levels with the major differences being the increased amount of enemies, how many shots some of them take before they are destroyed and their heightened aggressiveness which applies even more so to enemy bosses.
The PS4 version has a major feature which the Vita release does not contain and that is local co-operative multiplayer features for 2 to 4 players to participate with their choice of ship on the same screen during all of the super wide-screen AC Mode content, although the larger screen CS Mode does not support any local multiplayer, while there is also no online multiplayer.
It would have been great to see the Vita version support local co-operative multiplayer for two players with the second player utilising the touch screen for their control scheme, while a further improvement would have been a pass the Vita local multiplayer component which would have provided a competitive element even in the scenario if the second player did not have their own Vita by attempting to survive for as long as the other player within any game mode on a limited number of continues. Another addition that would have taken the game to another level of quality would have been competitive multiplayer with one player taking control of the good side with a certain number of credits and the other player controlling the enemies and enemy bosses with a specific amount of enemies and enemy bosses to utilise in battle against each other, while a further possibility would have been to have 2 vs. 2 and 3 vs. 1 variations of competitive multiplayer.
The online leaderboards focuses on the score accumulated with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank, score, name (PSN ID), which ship was utilised to achieve that score and which route was taken with the positioning of each player based upon the score for multiple game modes, while showing first position and your placing on the worldwide leaderboards and the placing of you and your friends on the friends leaderboards.
The replayability stems from a variety of areas including numerous game modes which are all unique in how they approach the formula and subject material, upgradeable weaponry, six difficulty levels and online leaderboards for both the Vita and PS4 versions, while the PS4 version also goes a couple of steps further by containing local co-operative multiplayer for 2 to 4 players in AC Mode and a Japanese language digital artbook called Darius Odyssey which is a nice touch, but it would have been great to see it fully translated into English and for it to have also been digitally included in the Vita version, although it does make a physical appearance in the limited edition Vita retail release in Japan. There is most certainly enough content to collectively have players returning for at the very least dozens if not hundreds of hours which is further complimented by gameplay that makes players repeatedly want to have just one more go.
Overall, if you can afford the expensive pricing on PS4 at $59.99 digitally or the much better priced Vita release for $39.99 digitally or the comparable pricing for the standard edition of the Vita retail import which one could argue that the price point is partially justified by extensive content in every game mode and pretty much infinite replay value, while having your mind set on a specific platform due to the lack of cross-buy, then Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours comes highly recommended. It really is an incredible entry into not only the series but the entire arcade side-scrolling shoot ‘em up genre and an absolute revelation for anyone who is not familiar with the series as there is an array of exceptional content throughout the game which suits both the longer play sessions of the PS4 and shorter play sessions of a portable environment for the Vita rather quite perfectly, therefore making it ideal for fans of the series as well as fans of side-scrolling games generally, arcade games and especially the side-scrolling shoot ‘em up genre.
Developer: Pyramid/Chara-Ani Corporation
Release Date: December 2, 2015
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita (Both Versions Reviewed)
ESRB Rating: E – Everyone
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